Hysterical Racism: Gorée in À l’île de Gorée
It’s 1986. Iannis Xenakis writes a harpsichord concerto for an ensemble. He names his composition À l’île de Gorée. Despite its abstract, purely instrumental character, the piece delivers a powerful social and political criticism. Through its title, and explicit antiracist commentary, the piece is an homage to the African slaves, dedicated to the black heroes from the African continent. The titular Gorée island is an important place for slave history and memory in Senegal and West Africa. In the words of Xenakis, Goreé was a flourishing slave market.
In 2022, I travel to Senegal and visit Gorée island to learn about this place, its history, and its meaning. Immersed in the island's rich sonosphere, I am deeply touched by the experience of stepping through the Door of No Return in the House of Slaves, and the open view of the vast Atlantic Ocean. In my piece, I reimagine listening to Xenakis' composition, this time through this specific place, its people and their stories.
Commissioned by MINU Festival for Expanded Music (Copenhagen, 9-13 November 2022)
Supported by Musikfonds Berlin e.V.
Iannis Xenakis' composition »À l’île de Gorée« included is published with kind permission by Riot Ensemble and Gośka Isphording (harpsichord). The recording was made by BBC Radio 3